Ministry kicks off food pantry recipe challenge

PORTLAND — A recipe challenge, sponsored by Catholic Charities Maine’s Parish Social Ministry, is to once again provide an opportunity for all Mainers to put their cooking knowledge and creativity to the test while helping local parish food ministries in the process.

The 2021 St. Hildegard Food Pantry Recipe Challenge is underway with entries being accepted through Aug. 22. The winning recipes will receive a cash donation to the entrants’ parishes to support the food pantry, soup kitchen, or other food-based ministry connected to the parish.

The winners will be announced on Sept. 17, the Feast Day of St. Hildegard, who is known for developing a nutritional philosophy centered on the healing properties of food.

“This year we are basing our recipe challenge around ‘Chopped,’ the popular Food Network show,” said Bill Wood of Parish Social Ministry, according to a news release from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. “We are pretty much giving our ‘contestants’ the ingredients to work with, and they take it from there.”

The theme is “Food Box +1,” meaning that entrants can only use the basic contents of a food pantry food box for a family of four in their recipes: cereal, crackers, powdered milk, canned soup, dried fruit, nuts, chickpeas, beans, instant potatoes, bread, canned vegetables, canned fruit, pork, chicken, beef, whole milk, butter, yogurt, sour cream, in-season fresh vegetables (corn, tomatoes, broccoli, squash, green peppers), and basic fruits.

“The recipe can be for any main or side dish. Participants are allowed to add one additional food to the recipe that is not in the box but is usually available at a local food pantry,” said Wood.

Recipes will be judged on nutritional value and ease of cooking. In addition to providing some summer fun for participants, the challenge has also been invaluable in educating the general public about local community food pantries.

“We feel this year we are really accomplishing that objective,” said Wood. “The entrants will be composing their recipes pretty much with exactly what those who go to a food pantry receive. We’re very excited to see what they come up with.”

People can enter as many times as they like. To enter, email recipes to [email protected] with “Recipe Contest” in the subject line. Recipes also can be mailed to: Recipe Contest, Catholic Charities Maine, P.O. Box 10660, Portland, ME 04104.

An electronic version of all of the recipes submitted will be made available for all parish food pantries and soup kitchens to use for those they serve.

For more information about Parish Social Ministry or the contest, call 207-523-1161 or visit